Truth, Justice and the Canadian Way

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by rawbone8, Mar 1, 2007.

  1. rawbone8

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    excerpt below. Full article at CBC News

    Ottawa 'discriminates' in same-sex pension payments: court


    Last Updated: Thursday, March 1, 2007 | 11:25 AM ET

    The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that denying Canada Pension Plan benefits to some surviving partners of same-sex relationships is discriminatory and unconstitutional under the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    The ruling was in response to a class action challenge to Ottawa's policy of denying same-sex survivors' benefits to people whose partners died before 1998. That date was set when Parliament passed legislation in 2000 that broadened benefit rights for gay couples.

    The petitioners had also been seeking retroactive payment of all benefits not paid, but the Supreme Court ruled against this, saying surviving partners from gay unions were entitled to 12 months of benefits after the death of a same-sex spouse but no more.

    The ruling said there was no evidence that Ottawa was acting in bad faith by denying benefits to some surviving members of same-sex relationships. It also noted granting retroactive benefits could impose undue financial burdens on the Canada Pension Plan and encroach upon the rights of Parliament to pass legislation and set limits on government payments.

    [...]
    See also related article in The Toronto Star
    Partial win on same-sex benefits



    Some parity in qualifying for pension survival rights were announced today in Canada after a long legal challenge made its way through the system.

    Here in Canada we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms since 1982 that has been useful as a mechanism for pursuing equality rights. It doesn't always work well, and can anger some people, because the courts sometimes, via rulings, determine standards on social issues that those conservative folks prefer to be solely the purview of the legislature. Legal challenges are many. Some feel that the legal challenges using the Charter can "thwart" representational democracy because minorities can go around the majority's opinion.

    Appointing judges becomes important. There are some contentious issues that politicians are actually relieved to allow the courts to decide, letting them off the hot seat, so to speak. The Liberal Party has been in power more frequently than any other, and therefore has had the opportunity to appoint more judges, yet the appointees are generally admired and respected. The now extinct Progressive Conservative Party (odd name huh?) under Brian Mulroney also appointed very respected judges. The current minority Harper government is conservative and has not yet made appointments at a top level.


    Question
    What are the mechanisms for ensuring that equality rights and the respective laws are applied fairly in other countries?
     
  2. DC_DEEP

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    Do you want the technical/ideal answer, or do you want the practical/actual answer?

    In theory, equality rights are already in our Constitution here in the USA. Our 14th Amendment states that all laws will apply equally to all citizens. But in practice, that is not the case. The only remedy a citizen has is to take it up through the court systems, including the Supreme Court if it goes that far (and ironically, if they agree to hear the case). Our system is better than some, but still a horribly inadequate one. Duh. Otherwise, we would already have equal marriage and legal rights here, but so far, our Federal government is even behind most of the States in ensuring those equalities.
     
  3. rawbone8

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    How do cases like the example above fare in the US?

    Do same sex couples in the US have an entitlement to survivor's social security or federal government administered pension benefits if their spouse passes away? Are there any comparable lawsuits in action?

    Here the principle was that paying the same premiums should entitle everyone to the same eligibility for benefits. When the government knowingly denied administering the pension plan benefits to same sex couples in the case of deaths of partners they did so knowing it was discriminatory. It seems they did so to avoid riling voters who would be against it in principle because they were against gay and lesbian unions, period. So the government took a cynical stance that meant they would not change unless they were forced to by a high court. And they figured they would end up compromising and settle in a position that might still save a lot of money in the plan. For example, many men died during the wave of AIDS deaths that afflicted many couples in the 1980s. The government here did not want retoactivity to go back as far as 1985, for obvious reasons

    The activists said hell no, we won't settle for the middle of the bus. It takes tenacious legal teams willing to go at it for years, but it seems it is a viable route to equality.

    Native aboriginal groups grimly expect that they will be in court perpetually if the government has its way delaying settling land claims and other grievances.
     
  4. DC_DEEP

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    In the USA, rawbone, same-gender partners have no federal legal protections or benefits at all whatsoever. We have about 1,480 federal laws dealing with benefits and protections for heterosexual married couples. A very few of the states grant some limited benefits and protections. Private industry is not where it needs to be in regards to making benefits and protections available, but it is much ahead of our various governments, federal, state, and local.
     
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